Behind the scenes

February 2011 News

Hi-Tech Security Solutions speaks to John Keyter, CEO of the Symbiotix Group.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Tell us about Symbiotix. What does the company do and what industries to you serve? How long have you been in business?

John Keyter, CEO
John Keyter, CEO

John Keyter: The Symbiotix Group has been in operation for almost 20 years. It was founded by Reg Horne as Justicia Investigations and has evolved into the Symbiotix Group of companies consisting of:

* Justicia Investigations.

* Whistle Blowers.

* Symbiotix Guarding t/a Guarding South Africa.

It services corporate South Africa across most industry sectors and geographical areas. If there is any type of crime affecting an industry or particular business, the chances are we would have been involved in providing solutions somewhere along the line.

Reg Horne, Group MD
Reg Horne, Group MD

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What services do you find are most in demand in your client base – undercover operations, employee screening, VIP protection services, etc?

John Keyter: We provide the following services: forensic investigations including polygraph testing, provision of undercover operatives, covert and overt camera systems, bugging and de-bugging systems, physical and electronic surveillance, background checks, lifestyle audits etc.

With reference to our most commonly required services, this is a difficult question to answer simply, because, in most cases we find ourselves providing specific solutions for unique circumstances and overlapping more than one service with another (or several).

Once we have provided a solution, it is our policy to encourage our customers to become pro-active (rather than re-active) and consider introducing undercover operatives, CCTV systems etc, on a permanent basis – and to even think about pre-employment polygraph testing as part of their employment/recruitment strategy.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Is industrial espionage a serious threat in the South African landscape?

John Keyter: Industrial espionage is a dramatic term for an occurrence that happens every day in business. Sales representatives leave the employ of one company with customer data bases, restraint of trade agreements are reneged upon, staff moonlight at weekends with company clients etc.

The actual theft of high level secrets regarding technical designs and secrets is far more remote, but with the advent of the information age, information of all types is far more readily available than it was 20 years ago, and is therefore vulnerable to exploitation.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Do you provide security assessments and training to clients? Are companies willing to pay for more than “guns and guards” in these difficult economic times?

John Keyter: Yes, we regularly provide security assessments etc for clients. In these tight economic times, clients are constantly exploring ways to spend their security budgets more effectively and efficiently. Often this means deviating from the traditional guarding/alarms and armed response services.

It is often possible to re-evaluate corporative security structure to become more effective at less cost. Unfortunately, economic pressures usually invoke scrutiny of budgets, and the converse is often a reality: clients are finding ways to reduce security spend, rather than pay more for guns and guards.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Is your covert/undercover work growing? Is there an awareness of these types of services and a demand for them in the market?

John Keyter: Our covert/undercover work is constantly growing, but it is an aspect of our industry that unprofessional integration of agents into workplaces by inexperienced service providers has sometimes undermined the good name it deserves.

It is not as simple as it appears, intelligence gatherers need to be trained, briefed and managed closely, and on a personal level, 24-hours a day if they are to provide useful information without exposing themselves (which, in itself, can be life threatening).

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Undercover work is not as dramatic as we see on TV. When is it necessary and what goes into a successful undercover operation?

John Keyter: Undercover work is like most forms of investigation work, in that it involves patience, invisibility and vast amounts of experience if it is to be successful over a period of time. It becomes applicable when other, more traditional forms of investigation have not borne fruit, or when illegal activity is suspected, but canno’t be proven. It becomes valuable when syndicates are colluding with staff to commit criminal acts on an ongoing basis.

The key element of any undercover operation is to deploy the correct agent for the task at hand, and for that person to be infiltrated into the right part of the business, in order to be effective. This process can take months to achieve.

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